Auctions

Top 5 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

BY MARK ANDERSON

When it comes to the world of art, some pieces command truly staggering prices. These works represent the pinnacle of human spending power, and are treasured by investors, collectors, and art lovers alike. The top 5 most expensive artworks ever sold are a testament to the enduring value of art. From the masterful brushstrokes of Leonardo da Vinci to the bold color fields of Mark Rothko, these works hold more capital than some banks. In this article, we will take a closer look at the most expensive artworks ever sold, examining the artists, the works, and the prices they fetched at auction or private sale. So, whether you’re a seasoned collector or simply an art enthusiast, read on to discover the most valuable artworks in history.


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“No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” by Mark Rothko | $186 Million

Sold for $186 million at Christie’s in 2014. Rothko’s work, like de Kooning’s, is considered to be an important example of abstract expressionism. This painting is one of Rothko’s most famous and its striking composition helped to drive its high sale price. It is currently held in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and is considered one of the most valuable works of art in the world.

Mark Rothko believed that color was the most powerful means of expressing emotion, and he sought to create works that would evoke a sense of transcendence and spiritual awe in the viewer. The painting is dominated by three large rectangles of color: a deep violet at the top, a bright green in the middle, and a rich red at the bottom. These colors are applied in thick, layered brushstrokes, creating a sense of depth and movement. The borders between the rectangles are not clearly defined, giving the impression that the colors are blending and merging together.

"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)" by Mark Rothko
“No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” by Mark Rothko

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“When Will You Marry?” by Paul Gauguin | $210 Million

Painted in 1892 by the French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, it is considered one of the artist’s most important works, and a key piece in the development of his mature style. It was sold for $210 million at private sale in 2014 and is currently held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The painting depicts a young Tahitian girl, seated on the ground and holding a flower in her hand. She is dressed in traditional Tahitian clothing, and her face is adorned with a flower lei. Behind her is a lush tropical landscape, with palm trees and a bright blue sky. The girl’s gaze is directed off to the side, creating a sense of introspection and detachment.

Gauguin was deeply interested in the culture and people of Tahiti, and he believed that the island represented a kind of Edenic paradise, untouched by the corruption and industrialization. “When Will You Marry?” is a reflection of this belief, as the painting presents a vision of Tahiti as a place of natural beauty and simplicity.

"Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)" by Paul Gauguin
“Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)” by Paul Gauguin

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“The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne | $250 Million

“Card Players” is a series of paintings created by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne between 1890 and 1895. These artworks depict groups of men playing cards, and they are considered some of Cézanne’s most important works. The painting which sold for $250 million is called “The Card Players” and was created by the artist between 1892-93. This artwork is considered one of the most significant paintings of the Post-Impressionist movement and is known for its bold colors and thick brushstrokes. It was sold to the Royal Family of Qatar in 2011 by the Greek shipping tycoon, George Embiricos and it is one of the most expensive painting ever sold.

The “Card Players” series is also significant because it reflects Cézanne’s interest in capturing the everyday life of rural Provence. The men depicted in these paintings are peasant farmers, and their relaxed and natural poses reflect the simplicity and authenticity of rural life. The men are depicted in varying poses and expressions, with some appearing to be deep in thought and others looking directly at the viewer. The composition is carefully balanced, with the men and the table taking up the majority of the space in the painting.

"Card Players" by Paul Cézanne
“Card Players” by Paul Cézanne

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“Interchange” by Willem de Kooning | $300 Million

Sold for $300 million at private sale in 2015. This painting is one of de Kooning’s masterpieces from his abstract expressionist period. De Kooning is considered to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and his works are highly sought after by collectors. Additionally, the painting’s large size and striking composition helped to drive its high sale price.

The artwork depicts a human figure in a highly abstracted form. The figure is rendered in broad, gestural brushstrokes, with a focus on the play of light and shadow. The figure’s face is only suggested, and the body is fragmented, with different parts of it appearing to be in different stages of movement.

De Kooning’s use of abstraction in “Interchange” is a key aspect of the painting’s importance. This art style allowed him to create a sense of movement and energy. The artwork is also significant because it marked a shift in de Kooning’s work towards a more figurative style. Prior to “Interchange,” de Kooning had been primarily known for his abstract expressionist work. However, with this painting, he began to incorporate more recognizable figures into his work, which would become a defining feature of his style.

"Interchange" by Willem de Kooning
“Interchange” by Willem de Kooning

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“Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci | $450 Million

“Salvator Mundi” is a painting created by the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci, believed to have been completed in the early 1500s. The painting depicts Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and making the sign of blessing with his right. The painting is currently in the collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and is considered to be one of the most important works of art in the world.

In 2017, Salvator Mundi was sold at Christie’s auction for $450.3 Million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction. This sale generated a lot of attention and debate, but it only confirms the painting’s importance and value, both as an artwork and as a cultural heritage.

“Salvator Mundi” was long considered a copy of a lost original by Leonardo, and it was only in the 2000s that it was reattributed to the artist himself. The artwork underwent a meticulous conservation process, which revealed the artist’s technique and brushstrokes. The painting was also subject to a series of scientific tests, including infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence analysis, that confirmed the painting’s authenticity.

One of the most striking aspects of “Salvator Mundi” is the level of realism and detail that Leonardo was able to achieve. The face of Christ is portrayed with a serene expression, and the eyes are particularly striking, with a gaze that seems to follow the viewer around the room. The artwork also features intricate details in the folds of the robes, the beads of the necklace, and the hair, all of which were executed with great skill and precision.

The “Salvator Mundi” is also significant because it is one of fewer than 20 surviving paintings that can be confidently attributed to Leonardo. The artist was known for his experimentation with new techniques and materials, and the painting showcases his skill and innovation as an artist.

"Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci
“Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci

These artworks are world treasures, not only because of their monetary value but also due to the historical significance they hold. They have withstood the test of time and are considered to be among the finest examples of their respective art movements. Their value goes far beyond the price they fetch at auction – they are symbols of the artistic and cultural achievements of humanity.


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